Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Fabi Arrivillaga: “The creative process was the highlight of building a patent”

As many of you know, one of the best things about working in a company such as Smartmatic is the sheer number of possibilities to put our creativity to work. However, when we see in action a product or service we envisioned, it takes self-satisfaction to a whole new level. Imagine then, going a step forward and enjoying the fulfillment of taking part in one of the multiple patents that Smartmatic has registered!

This is the case of Fabiola Arrivillaga, who joined the inventors’ list of some recently registered patents for our integrated portable device PARmobile. The patents relate to “An Apparatus and Method for Automated Data Capture, Storage and Delivery of Biometric and Biographic Information.”

“The creative process was an effort of continuous feedback among people in charge of the product design, purpose of use, business model, etc. It took us more than a year to have a product model, to create the plastic moulding, to produce the prototypes, and to test and refine details, and then achieving the first pilot run, which it is the first real production run of such equipment,” shares Fabiola. 

The invention, design, development and manufacturing processes was a joint and multidisciplinary effort among many Smartmatic colleagues, including our CEO Antonio Mugica and COO Roger Piñate, together with Paul Babic, Jorge Vasquez, Romano Stasi, Paul Chen, Ernesto Vecchi, German  Dorta, Dimas Ulacio, Dany Fariña, Luis Coronel and Fabiola Arrivillaga. In our company there is an odd, outstanding detail: our top management are often either the originators or are among the main contributors of most of the patents we have.

Fabiola also refers that even though “I feel super proud of having participated in the whole creative process, which for me was the best part of everything”; the patent registration process was led and completed by Smartmatic’s Intellectual Property expert and one of the company’s veterans: Anibal Vivanco. “I have to admit my participation in the registration procedures were limited to help Anibal gather the necessary information. He is truly our patents’ King!” she adds smiling.

Anibal not only helped us walk through some basics of this unknown world –for many– called Intellectual Property (IP), but also has given us his conclusions on the registration process of a Smartmatic patent. 

Fact 1: The Intellectual Property has to do with creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Its ultimate objective is to obtain legal protection and enable authors to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

Fact 2: There are basically two categories of IP: 1) Industrial Property, which includes protective rights for inventions, patents, Trademarks, industrial designs. 2) Copyrights, rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Of course there are a few more sub-categories.

Fact 3: “In Smartmatic we are interested in protecting copyrights (original works, including software, manuals, brochures, etc.); trademarks (names of the companies and their products, organisation logos and phrases), and patents (inventions -an invention is a solution to a specific technology problem and is the product of a creative process-).”

Fact 4: “A patent is a set of documents describing an invention, i.e. an original apparatus or method (or both), which conform to a standard set of rules (of structure, content, language and drafting) which when allowed, lead to exclusive exploitation rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or assignee for a limited period of time, in exchange for detailed public disclosure of that invention.”

Applying for a patent successfully requires a strong understanding of the application process. Fortunately, Anibal, besides being a singular and appreciated character in Smartmatic, is an old-time engineer who has become an expert on the subject. He concludes that “The process of handling a patent is often long (average 3 years), and the applicant should be able to overcome a series of obstacles, mainly objections from the Examiner in charge at the patent office in question.

Those objections are called "office actions" (usually two, the second one being "FINAL") essentially based on aspects of the patent's components found defective, or lacking needed information, or having insufficient creativity or intrinsic usefulness or worth, or (in the worst case) devoid of novelty, namely, that it was allegedly found that someone had patented it already.”

However, to simplify things and to better explain the processes he works with, Anibal assures us that “the patent is granted when:

1) The invention has sufficient merits (usefulness, originality, creativity, elegance when solving a problem, etc.);
2) The patent is well built, that is, has a sound structure and inherent logic, and is well written;
3) A good defence is made addressing all objections, boldly and leaving no doubts;
4) The appointed Examiner is someone who's reasonable and intelligent;
5) We have some luck; and.
6) We have enough patience (usually 2-5 years).”

Creativity, hard work, patience and even a drop of luck are some of the essential ingredients for having as many patents as we actually do in Smartmatic, thanks to professionals turned into inventors such as Fabiola, and to still other pros such as Anibal.